2. Performance Report
The Performance Report describes the Scottish Commission on Social Security’s—
- Purpose: its main statutory roles and its membership
- Performance: how well it exercised its functions, performed its statutory roles and contributed towards improving the system for social security in Scotland
- Continuous improvement: the steps the SCoSS Board has taken to ensure its work can be as effective as possible
- Risks that could affect SCoSS’s performance and the action taken to mitigate them
- Strategies and governance: the strategies SCoSS has agreed to ensure strong governance
- The Chair’s statement and overview of the performance report also form part of the Performance Report.
Purpose and Structure
The Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) is an independent public body established by the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 (hereafter ‘the 2018 Act’). It provides expert advice to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament on devolved social security matters.
The Act sets out the functions of SCoSS which can be summarised as follows—
- SCoSS must be consulted by the Scottish Government on most regulations about social security assistance made under the 2018 Act. SCoSS scrutinises and reports on draft regulations. The Scottish Government may change its regulations after considering SCoSS’s recommendations. When it lays the regulations in the Scottish Parliament, it must publish its response to SCoSS’s report at the same time. The Scottish Parliament’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee then scrutinises the regulations and may take evidence from SCoSS members when it does so.
- SCoSS must report, from time to time, to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament on whether the expectations in the Scottish Social Security Charter (‘Our Charter’) are being met and make recommendations for improvement if they are not. It must consider reporting if it receives evidence that the Charter expectations are frequently not being fulfilled.
- In addition, Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament can ask SCoSS to report on any matter relevant to social security.
In undertaking its statutory duties, SCoSS takes full account of the social security principles contained within the 2018 Act and of relevant human rights obligations as defined by the 2018 Act.
SCoSS Board members are non-executive public appointments made by the Scottish Ministers in line with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Public Appointments in Scotland. The Act allows up to five Commissioners to be appointed. The Chair is responsible for providing leadership to ensure that the Board delivers its functions efficiently and effectively. The Chair is accountable to the Scottish Ministers. The role of Board members is to provide direction, support and guidance to ensure that SCoSS delivers its functions effectively and efficiently, in accordance with the 2018 Act. SCoSS members were originally appointed for periods of three or four years. Members may devote up to 36 days a year to perform their functions, apart from the Chair, who may devote up to 60 days. SCoSS is supported by a secretariat employed by the Scottish Government.
In September 2022, the Chair of SCoSS, Dr Sally Witcher OBE and a Board Member, Sharon McIntyre, resigned from the SCoSS Board. This resulted in the Board consisting of two Members, namely Judith Paterson and Dr Mark Simpson. Accordingly, a temporary Board Member, Marilyn Howard, was appointed in September 2022. The Scottish Government undertook a recruitment process which sought to appoint a Chair and two Board Members. This process was successful in appointing Marilyn Howard to the Board on a permanent basis in February 2023. However, the position of Chair and second Board Member remain unfilled.
During the reporting period, from September 2022, Judith Paterson and Dr Mark Simpson have been the Interim Co-Chairs of SCoSS. Their positions as Interim Co-Chairs has been approved by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, until 31 March 2024. In addition, a temporary Board Member, Dr Jackie Gulland, was appointed to the Board, by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, until 31 March 2024. The Scottish Government intends to undertake a further recruitment process which will seek to appoint a Chair and an additional Board Member by the end of March 2024.
During the course of the reporting year, SCoSS scrutinised and reported on four sets of draft regulations. The Board intends to begin to undertake work relating to the Social Security Charter during 2023-24. In addition, a Board member and a member of the Secretariat have provided input into Scottish Government’s Charter Research Advisory Group. SCoSS held eight Board meetings during the reporting period.
In 2022-23, all Board meetings were conducted virtually. To ensure that decision-making and proceedings are transparent, the minutes of all formal SCoSS’s Board meetings are published on the SCoSS website. SCoSS’s scrutiny reports and corporate documents are also publicly available on the website.
SCoSS’s vision and strategic objectives
The SCoSS Business Plan 2022-23 set out the vision, strategic objectives and key priorities for the reporting period1The SCoSS Business Plan for 2023-24 can be accessed at— Business Plan 2023 to 2024 – Scottish Commission on Social Security (socialsecuritycommission.scot). The SCoSS Board regularly reviews progress against the objectives set out in the Business Plan and this is considered further later in this report. The vision set out in the 2022-23 Business Plan was as follows—
The SCoSS vision is to support—
A robust, effective, efficient Scottish social security system that meets its full potential to improve outcomes for the people of Scotland. To help achieve this vision for Scottish social security by providing independent expert advice that adds demonstrable and significant value.
The 2018 Act provides the legislative basis for SCoSS. As an advisory Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB), the SCoSS Framework Document sets out the broad framework within which SCoSS operates and defines key roles and responsibilities which underpin the relationship between SCoSS and the Scottish Government. SCoSS Standing Orders govern the operation of the Board and the Audit Sub-Committee. SCoSS adheres to best practice principles and relevant guidance regarding corporate governance, primarily as set out in ‘On Board: a guide for members of statutory boards’. In 2022-23, the SCoSS Board established an Audit Sub-Committee to provide oversight of SCoSS finances and governance. The work of SCoSS, including the Audit-Sub-Committee, is also supported by an Audit Adviser.
As noted in last year’s annual report, the Scottish Government commissioned Glen Shuraig consultants to undertake a review of the remit and governance of SCoSS. The independent, external consultants reported in 2022-23. The purpose of the review was to—
“consider experience to date and identify arrangements required to ensure that SCOSS is established and resourced on a resilient and sustainable basis in order to perform the range of functions required now and as far as can reasonably be anticipated, to meet the needs of the Scottish social security system into the future”2Glen Shuraig Consulting, 2023, Scottish Commission on Social Security Review: Final Report, p.4..
The remit for the review was as follows—
“to comment upon on and make recommendations to the Scottish Government on current arrangements, prospective future requirements, and changes required in relation to:
- SCoSS role and remit, including changes that may be required to legislation (primary or secondary) and related documents, such as, the framework agreement and related protocol;
- SCoSS constitution, including NDPB status and legislated classification within the public body landscape;
- SCoSS operational arrangements, including but not exclusively:
- the role and functions of board members, including the minimum number of board members required for resilience, structure of the board and board capability;
- resourcing, particularly in relation to secretariat support, including staffing structure and reporting arrangements and how this should be secured and managed in order to ensure independent support and accountability to the Board;
iii. governance and operational aspects of legislation, framework agreement, protocol etc.
- sponsorship arrangements within the Scottish Government; and
- the scope, timing and process for future review”3Glen Shuraig Consulting, 2023, Scottish Commission on Social Security Review: Final Report, p.5..
The report concluded that the “scrutiny work carried out by SCoSS, and changes made as a result have materially improved Scottish social security regulations”4Glen Shuraig Consulting, 2023, Scottish Commission on Social Security Review: Final Report, p.7.. The consultants undertook interviews with internal and external stakeholders and observed that “interviewees both within and outwith SCoSS noted that the work of SCoSS has added clear value”5Glen Shuraig Consulting, 2023, Scottish Commission on Social Security Review: Final Report, p.7.. The report made 15 recommendations covering the governance and remit of SCoSS. The Scottish Government and SCoSS have accepted all the recommendations and an improvement plan has been developed to take forward implementation of the recommendations. This will include a review, by the Scottish Government Sponsor Unit and SCoSS Secretariat, of the Framework Document in 2023-24.
During the course of 2022-23, there was considerable change within the Secretariat which has been expanded to six members of staff. In part, this increase in the size of the Secretariat is intended to take forward the recommendations of the external review and improve the governance of SCoSS more generally.
The Board receives quarterly financial updates showing SCoSS’s expenditure to date and projected for the current financial year, as well as a comparison of spend against the annual budget. In addition, the Audit Sub-Committee meets on a quarterly basis.
During the reporting period, SCoSS reported on all draft regulations that were referred by Scottish Ministers. Therefore, SCoSS performance met expectations over the reporting year. Further information on our performance is detailed below.
Within the reporting period of these accounts, SCoSS produced four substantive reports on draft regulations. Additional scrutiny was also undertaken in response to late Scottish Government amendments to the Disability Assistance for Working Age People (Transitional Provisions and Miscellaneous Amendment) (Scotland) Regulations 2022. During this scrutiny, SCoSS identified that further amendments were required which were subsequently addressed by the Scottish Government through ancillary provisions.
During 2022-23, SCoSS made 34 recommendations to the Scottish Government of which 30 were accepted or partially accepted. SCoSS made a further 10 observations.
SCoSS appeared before the Social Justice and Social Security Committee on three occasions giving evidence and taking questions from MSPs on The Disability Assistance for Working Age People (Transitional Provisions and Miscellaneous Amendment) (Scotland) Regulations 2022, The Social Security (Up-rating) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2023 and The Winter Heating Assistance (Low Income) (Scotland) Regulations 2023.
The principles of best value are firmly embedded across all of our SCoSS operations. Instead of reporting best value against specific projects and initiatives, we look at best value holistically. In future, a report on how we deliver the best value principles will be submitted to the Board annually.
The objectives and priorities for the year were set out in the SCoSS Business Plan 2022-23. Performance against the strategic objectives and priorities in the Business Plan is considered below.
Strategic Objective One – Provide unique expert, independent and evidence-based scrutiny of draft social security regulations that is driven by human rights and the social security principles.
In the course of producing four scrutiny reports this year, the Commission has provided detailed insight and feedback drawn from stakeholder evidence and the expertise provided by Commissioners in interpreting the technicalities of social security legislation at a practical level.
Where appropriate, the reports have detailed the relationship between the regulations and existing human rights laws and each scrutiny report sets out a detailed analysis of the relationship of the regulations being scrutinised to the social security principles and how they are being, or could be better, realised.
For example, an observation in The Social Security (Up-rating) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2023 commented on the Scottish Government’s approach to human rights and equality budgeting within the wider Budget process and commitment to broader principles of transparency, participation and accountability which are also referred to in the social security principles.
Strategic Objective Two – Work alongside Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament as well as other key stakeholders like people with lived experience to ensure our work constructively supports the development of a devolved social security system based on dignity, fairness and respect.
Achieving this objective is an on-going task, however, this approach was adopted during SCoSS scrutiny of draft regulations during 2022-23. For example, engaging external stakeholders through a written call for evidence on the Draft Winter Heating Assistance (Low Income) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 and hosting a roundtable discussion with the Scottish Refugee Council and Social Security Scotland to inform its report on The Social Security (Residence Requirements) (Ukraine) (Scotland) Regulations 2022.
Engaging with people with lived experience has been an area where SCoSS has expanded its activity and expertise during 2023-24 following the increase in staffing of the Secretariat.
Strategic Objective Three – Provide strategic insight and intelligence into whether the aims, values and expectations set out in the Social Security Charter are being met, ensuring that the Charter is realised through the real life experiences of people who rely on the Scottish social security system.
SCoSS sought to avoid any duplication of approach with the Scottish Government review of the Charter and has provided input into the Research Advisory Group supporting that review. The SCoSS Board continues to consider how best to achieve this objective in 2023-24.
Strategic Objective Four – Ensure our remit, governance model, operating structure, processes and resource management are fit for purpose and are systematically reviewed to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of SCoSS’s contribution to the maintenance and development of the devolved social security system.
SCoSS was subject to a review by external consultants in 2021-22. The review made a number of recommendations which have been agreed by the SCoSS Board and are the subject of an improvement plan which is being taken forward in 2023-24. As noted above, there were a number of measures taken in 2022-23 which are intended to improve governance, operating structures and resource management. These included the establishment of an Audit Sub-Committee, undertaking a recruitment exercise for new Board members and the expansion in the size of the Secretariat.
Strategic Objective Five – Continually seek to provide transparency about how we make our decisions and to ensure our information is accessible and inclusive through all channels.
Achieving this objective is an on-going task but substantial progress was made in 2022-23. In particular, the SCoSS website was launched and the website and Twitter account are used regularly to seek to provide transparency with regard to SCoSS decision-making, corporate documentation and scrutiny reports. In 2023-24, SCoSS is considering how to enhance the accessibility of the website and develop stakeholder engagement and engagement with those with lived experience of the social security system in Scotland.
- Scrutinise and report on draft regulations referred to SCoSS by Scottish Ministers within agreed timescales, including, for example, on Low Income Winter Heating Assistance.
SCoSS has scrutinised and reported on all draft regulations referred to SCoSS by Scottish Ministers within agreed timescales.
- Monitor the impact of our legislative scrutiny
The Secretariat monitors the impact of SCoSS legislative scrutiny and feedback from the independent review of SCoSS indicates that SCoSS scrutiny is widely recognised by key stakeholders as impactful and aligned with the Strategic Objectives of SCoSS. The Secretariat also seeks to obtain feedback from all stakeholders, including Scottish Government officials, that engage with SCoSS scrutiny processes.
Lived experience / Charter
- Carry out our first report on the Social Security Charter, focusing on section 4 of the Charter, titled “A Better Future”, paying particular attention to the views of those with lived experience of the devolved benefits system, and make recommendations to the Scottish Government for improvement. Meanwhile, we will begin consideration of SCoSS’s role in the Scottish Government’s 2024 review of the Charter.
SCoSS did not undertake a report on the Social Security Charter in 2022-23. SCoSS sought to avoid any duplication of activity with the Scottish Government’s review of the Charter. SCoSS has also engaged with research activity relating to the Scottish Government review. SCoSS continues to consider its approach to scrutiny of the Charter in 2023-24.
Communications and engagement
- Begin work on reviewing and developing our stakeholder engagement strategy to enrich, inform and add value to our pre-legislative scrutiny and work on the Charter.
The process of reviewing the stakeholder engagement strategy was started during the reporting period and is currently on-going.
- Engage with stakeholders to enhance our lived experience work.
Engagement with stakeholders, as a means of obtaining lived experience of the social security system in Scotland, to inform our scrutiny was undertaken via written calls for evidence and roundtables held on both The Social Security (Residence Requirements) (Ukraine) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 and The Social Security (Up-rating) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2023 in 2022-23. This approach will further inform a number of scrutiny reports in 2023-24.
- Focus on building and maintaining strong relationships with Scottish Government Ministers, the Social Justice and Social Security Committee and Social Security Scotland.
In 2022-23, there was substantial change in staffing within the SCoSS Secretariat. This has resulted in a significant strengthening of the relationship with the Scottish Government in 2022-23. The implementation of the recommendations in the Glen Shuraig report will further strengthen this relationship.
SCoSS has maintained strong relationships with the Social Justice and Social Security Committee and provided evidence at Committee on three occasions to support scrutiny of regulations that SCoSS has reported upon.
- Launch our new website and ensure that it provides full access to all our reports and minutes and is accessible for people with communication barriers.
The SCoSS website was launched in July 2022. The website provides access to all SCoSS scrutiny reports, draft regulations that are referred to SCoSS and all corporate documentation including the Minutes of all Board meetings. Measures to improve the accessibility of the website are being undertaken in 2023-24.
- We will regularly link to the website from social media to promote engagement and awareness of our work.
The SCoSS Twitter account is used to highlight all new content that is published on the website. In August 2023, the account had 752 ‘followers’.
Governance and Assurance
- Engage fully with and respond to the review which the Scottish Government is commissioning of SCoSS’s remit, role and constitution. This review marks three years of SCoSS’s operation to date. It will be a significant opportunity to draw on learning to build on the important contribution made by SCoSS to date towards the establishment of the new devolved social security system.
The review consultants conducted interviews, as part of the evidence-gathering process for the review, with both former and current members of the Board and of the Secretariat. The Board also considered and discussed draft recommendations with the external consultants prior to the finalisation of the report. The Board has also been fully involved with the development of the Improvement Plan following on from the review report.
- The newly created Audit Adviser role will support and advise the SCoSS board and Secretariat with governance and audit-related work including a review of governance documentation and continuous improvement.
The Audit Adviser regularly attends Board meetings where business relevant to the role of the adviser is being discussed. The Audit Adviser attends all meetings of the Audit Sub-Committee and meetings which the Secretariat hold on a bi-monthly basis with Scottish Government Finance officials. A review of governance documentation forms part of the Improvement Plan arising from the independent, external review of SCoSS in 2022-23. The Audit Adviser was also interviewed by the external consultants and provided input with regard to draft recommendations.
- Board recruitment will further strengthen the expertise and capacity of SCoSS. We will keep the resilience of the Board under review.
As detailed earlier in the report, the Scottish Government undertook a recruitment exercise in 2022-23 following the resignation of the Chair and a Board Member. This resulted in the appointment of a new Board Member within the reporting period. Subsequently, an additional Member has been appointed to the Board on a temporary basis until the end of March 2024. It is intended that a further recruitment exercise, to recruit a Chair and a Board Member, will be undertaken and completed by the end of March 2024.
- We will keep Secretariat capability under review – and will ensure that increased capacity within the Secretariat is deployed to best support the Board to meet its statutory obligations and wider ambitions.
The size of the Secretariat was significantly expanded during 2022-23 from two officials to six by November 2022. All of the Secretariat officials were appointed during the reporting period. Accordingly, there was significant turnover within the Secretariat. However, this expansion has significantly expanded the capability of the Secretariat and therefore the support received by the Board. The capability of the Secretariat is kept under review by both the Board and the Scottish Government Sponsor Unit.
- By the end of this reporting year our objective is to have resilient Secretariat resourcing in place that is fit for both present and future needs.
The staffing of the Secretariat was completed in November 2022. This has greatly enhanced the resilience and capacity of the Secretariat.
Monitoring our Success
- Our performance, delivery and processes are informed by information, research, lived experience, feedback and continuous improvement.
The approach to monitoring performance, delivery and processes forms part of the Improvement Plan arising from the external review of SCoSS.
- Monitor and analyse how the Scottish Government and the Social Justice and Social Security Committee take account of our reports, to ensure we are being effective and influential.
The Secretariat regularly monitors and analyses how the Scottish Government and SJSS Committee takes account of SCoSS reports and recommendations both formally and informally.
In the course of four scrutiny reports, SCoSS made 34 recommendations to the Scottish Government of which 30 were accepted or partially accepted. SCoSS made a further 10 observations. These resulted in both major and minor amendments to regulations that will have a direct impact on the experiences of people using the Scottish social security system.
For example, SCoSS recommended the Best Start Foods, Best Start Grants and Scottish Child Payment (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2022 provide clarity over the deferring or waiving of automatic awards of Best Start Grant where the claimant requests this. Stakeholders’ highlighted the importance of paying the right person when families are in crisis or transition. The information held by Social Security Scotland, however, may not have distinguished such situations and the draft Regulations did not clearly give Social Security Scotland the discretion they would need to defer or waive automatic awards. In response to our scrutiny report, the Scottish Government highlighted that the final regulations had been changed to add clarity that where an individual has indicated they do not want to receive an automatic award, this will not be made.
- Conduct discussions as opportunities arise with the Social Justice and Social Security Committee and the Scottish Government to make sure we are adding value, while maintaining our independence.
A key finding from the independent review of SCoSS was that SCoSS is widely recognised as adding value whilst maintaining its independence as a scrutiny body. SCoSS has engaged in discussions with Scottish Government policy officials following publication of each scrutiny report to ensure that lessons are learned and promote understanding of the Commission’s work. Commissioners have also appeared regularly before the Social Justice and Social Security Committee to discuss the content of scrutiny reports with the Committee.
- Adopt a lessons learned culture, where we systematically review the effectiveness of our work to identify where improvements could be made.
For each completed scrutiny report, the Board has reviewed the process and impact of the scrutiny process in order to learn lessons for the future. The Board has also sought feedback from Scottish Government officials leading on regulations, submitted to SCoSS for scrutiny, on their experience of engaging with SCoSS.
- Developing our potential ensuring all Board members – including any new members – are supported, motivated, skilled and our working practices are flexible and progressive.
The development of Board members, including induction of new members, forms part of the recommendations made in the Glen Shuraig review. These recommendations are being taken forward as part of the Improvement Plan discussed above.
SCoSS scrutiny of draft regulations
In 2022-23, SCoSS produced four substantive reports on draft regulations. We are pleased that 88% of SCoSS’s recommendations were accepted, at least in part, by the Scottish Government. This high rate of acceptance, by the Scottish Government of our recommendations, combined with our provision of oral evidence to the Social Justice and Social Security Committee on three occasions, we consider to be indicative of a high level of impact resulting from our scrutiny work.
In undertaking scrutiny, SCoSS has not just made recommendations on the wording of draft regulations or on direct policy considerations, but has also considered the bigger picture. This reflects the fact that we are obliged to scrutinise draft regulations against the principles in the Act and these span the whole policy cycle from policy design through to continuous improvement. For example, we have consistently called on the Scottish Government to effectively assess the impact of its social security policy changes to provide as much clarity as possible for those receiving or providing advice on benefits. We have also highlighted to Scottish Government officials that we will continue to look for consistency and simplicity across benefits, where possible, as this should help to make the system easier to navigate.
Whilst we recognise that demonstrating scrutiny impact is inevitably complex, the findings of the Glen Shuraig review with regard to the impact of our scrutiny provides further evidence that SCoSS is adding value in helping to create a social security system that is improving outcomes for the people of Scotland.
Risks facing SCoSS
During the year, the SCoSS Board oversaw and approved the approach to the management of corporate risk, updating the Risk Management Framework, and developing the processes and format of risk management in closer alignment with the guidance and advice produced by the Scottish Government. Risk continued to receive good oversight by the SCoSS Board who are advised by the Audit Sub-Committee as detailed below. Corporate risks, including any changes, are reviewed and discussed at all meetings of the SCoSS Board and Audit Sub-Committee.
The Audit Sub-Committee review the risk register at each meeting of the Sub-Committee. Prior to each meeting of the Sub-Committee, the risk register is reviewed, by the Secretariat and the Audit Adviser, and a paper prepared for the Sub-Committee advising on whether any change to the risk register is required. Following the Audit Sub-Committee, the risk register is considered at the next meeting of the SCoSS Board.
In August 2022, the SCoSS Board agreed that the Audit Adviser undertake a full review of the SCoSS risk register. The purpose of the review was to ensure that the approach to managing risk was appropriate, comprehensive and proportionate. The Board noted that there was consensus that the SCoSS risk register contained areas which were outdated and that a full review would be appropriate.
The Audit Adviser reported the outcome of the review to the December Audit Sub-Committee and subsequently to the December SCoSS Board meeting. The Audit Adviser’s review resulted in a rationalisation and reduction in the number of risks detailed in the risk register. This revised approach was agreed by the Audit Sub-Committee and subsequently by the SCoSS Board.
As a consequence of the review, four risks were identified and are reported upon in the risk register. These are detailed in the table below.
|Non- compliance with SG-SCoSS Corporate Governance Framework.
|There are regular meetings between the Secretariat and Scottish Government at which corporate governance issues are discussed. In addition, the recommendations from the Glen Shuraig review are designed to result in improvements to the governance of SCoSS. It is intended that the SCoSS Framework Document will be reviewed and updated, in line with the recommendations from the Glen Shuraig review, in 2023-24.
|Loss of Board resource impacts negatively on our delivery of the Corporate Plan or the quality of the services that we deliver.
|There was considerable change to the composition of the Board during 2022-23 as detailed earlier in this report. In order to mitigate this risk a temporary Board Member was appointed in September 2022 with this Board Member being appointed on a permanent basis in February 2023. In addition, a further temporary Board Member was appointed in August 2023. A further recruitment exercise for a Chair and a permanent Board Member is due to be undertaken and completed by end-March 2024
|Failure by SCoSS to apply the relevant statutory controls and other controls that prevent fraud or mismanagement, misuse of the Budget.
|The Audit Adviser provides a source of oversight and advice to the SCoSS Board and Audit Sub-Committee with regard to controls, including statutory controls, that prevent fraud, mismanagement and mis-use of the Budget. The Audit Adviser also provides advice and challenge to the Secretariat on these issues. In addition, the establishment of the Audit Sub-Committee is intended to further enhance oversight with regard to issues of this kind.
|Loss of key Secretariat staff would deliver on the ability to support and service SCoSS Board.
|By November 2022, the Secretariat has expanded to six officials in order to enhance the support to the SCoSS Board and the resilience of the Secretariat.
In 2022-23, SCoSS was allocated a budget of £450K and this is also the budget allocation in 2023-24. The finances of SCoSS are considered in detail later in this report (Section 5 – ‘Financial Accounts’). However, it is worth nothing that staffing costs have, in previous years, tended to account for the vast majority of SCoSS expenditure. This remained the case in 2022-23 when staffing costs accounted for 94% of SCoSS expenditure.
Given the increase in size of the staffing complement of the Secretariat and the increase in staffing costs arising from pay awards made in 2022-23 and 2023-24 it is expected that these costs will increase in 2023-24. The Audit Sub-Committee and Board are actively monitoring this position. As of September 2023, forecast expenditure in 2023-24 is forecast to be £439K. Accordingly, the Audit Sub-Committee agreed, on 14 September 2023, to the inclusion of a new risk to take account of the tight budgetary position in 2023-24 as follows—
|SCoSS Budget has little scope for any unforeseen or additional costs such as a higher pay settlement.
|Regular financial meetings are in place with Scottish Government Finance and regular Budget and Forecasting meetings are held. Accruals in relation to costs yet to crystalise are reviewed in depth.
SCoSS was delegated a budget of £0.45m by Ian Davidson as the Accountable Officer. This was based on SCoSS’s forecasted spending requirements that were projected and reviewed at the beginning of the year. At year end, SCoSS had spent £0.34m, a £0.11m underspend against the budget. This underspend was “re-absorbed” into the overall Scottish Government spend at year end. For a full breakdown of SCoSS expenditure in 2022-23, please refer to Section 5 – Financial Accounts.
Underspend forecasts presented to the Board during the reporting period were broadly in line with the end-year position. For example, the SCoSS Board was advised in February 2023 that forecast spend in 2022-23 was £359,768 as opposed to the end year position of £339,612. The level of underspend is largely a consequence of the level of turnover both within the Board and Secretariat during the reporting period which resulted in significantly changing circumstances over the course of the year.
There was a decrease in expenditure in non-staff costs in 2022-23 primarily as a result of reduced expenditure on website costs. Expenditure on website costs had been primarily due to the development costs for the new SCoSS website. The website went live in July 2022 and accordingly these costs were no longer incurred during the reporting period. In addition, there was a reduction in costs associated with publications as the Board decided to stop producing hard copies of SCoSS documents during the reporting period as these documents could be made available on the SCoSS website. These two factors account for the vast majority of the reduction in expenditure on non-staff costs from £30,765 in 2021-22 to £19,015 in 2022-23.
As detailed in last year’s annual report, the SCoSS website, which went live in July 2022, was the only relevant project in 2022-23. To date, no other projects have been undertaken.
Accountable Officer (Deputy Director, Social Security Policy)